26

For example:

There's two options here

or

There are two options here

I hear a lot of people say the first line (or something similar), but isn't that incorrect? Isn't it plural and therefore you should use "there are"?

2
  • I catch myself fixing this in emails rather often. I'll start composing it the way I might say it: "There's two ways we can handle this..." However, if I proofread before I click send, I'll often revise the sentence: "There are two ways we can handle this..." I think this gets uttered often partly because there's is so much easier to pronounce than there're (even my spellchecker doesn't like the latter).
    – J.R.
    Nov 11, 2014 at 23:12
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    @J.R. I think it's also because of the natural tendency to start sentences without having the whole sentence planned out before you start. I do the same thing. (Also with phrases like "How's things?") Nov 12, 2014 at 10:04

4 Answers 4

23

Here's an edited version of a post I did for ELU on a similar question (which got closed):

The existential construction takes there as a subject. There has no meaning, and often the verb takes its agreement from the complement of the verb BE. So if the Noun Phrase after BE is plural, the verb will usually be in a plural form. If the Noun Phrase is singular it will usually be singular:

  • There is an antelope over there.
  • There are some antelopes over there.

Notice, however, that in the examples above, the subject and the verb BE are not contracted. In normal speech these will nearly always be contracted. We will use there's instead of there is. It is also quite common nowadays to see them contracted in writing, normally in informal texts, although you can find instances in prestigious newspapers like the Times, for example.

Now when the subject there and BE are contracted like this, the verb doesn't need to agree in any way with the following Noun Phrase. Therefore with regard to the Original Poster's example, if they had said:

*There is two options here.

... this sentence would be regarded as ungrammatical by most, if not all speakers. However because they did contract there and BE, it is grammatical:

There's two options here.

This makes this sentence similar to a famous lyric from one of John Lennon's songs:

Imagine there's no countries.

Or usages such as:

There's times when I've wanted to box his ears

Having said this, despite the fact that this is a well documented aspect of the grammar, some prescriptivists are bound to take offense at this. They will insist that it's ungrammatical to use a plural noun after there's. This will be despite the fact that they quite subconsciously actually use plural nouns after there's themselves quite frequently. They will appear about five minutes after I post this answer. They do make life fun though!

There are some other special situations where we might use there is with a plural noun phrase, even though it is not contracted. For example How many people live in your house? Well, there is me, my grandad, my mum and my aunt. If you'd like to read about these exceptions, there's some good posts here!.

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    @AlbeyAmakiir No, it isn't. The Times, for example is a British newspaper. John Lennon was British too. I've used one in my post btw, did you notice? Nov 11, 2014 at 22:55
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    @AlbeyAmakiir They're there for fun and general interest. It's a well documented phenomenon, you'll find it discussed in CaGEL and other well-known works. Have a look here for examples in print. I don't know about it's pervasiveness in Australia though! :) Nov 11, 2014 at 23:26
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    @AhkamNihardeen Yes, but it's the other way round here. Most people think there's + plural noun is ungrammatical, but when we test it empirically, we can see that in reality it is grammatical! :) Nov 12, 2014 at 11:16
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    @AdrianMcCarthy Well, when you disagree with world-renowned award-winning grammars that are based on usage, well-documented matters of fact and vast amounts of research in the field you have several options: open your ears, search out the evidence for yourself, read those grammars. However, in this case , the facts are extraordinarily well-known and well-documented. Just pick up any modern peer-reviewed academic grammar of English. Mar 31, 2017 at 21:05
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    @AdrianMcCarthy When used in real life, they don't. Which is exactly the point. And if you tell learners that something's ungrammatical when it isn't then they get very confused when they see it in the Times the next day! And in this particular case, the OP is specifically asking because they are hearing native speakers using this language. Mar 31, 2017 at 22:21
10

In formal speech and writing, only there are is standard English in such cases. However, in an informal style, here's, there's and where's are common with plural nouns (Michael Swan, 2005.532, Practical English Usage).

2

I remember this one from English classes in school many years ago.
It was explained to me by my English teacher as follows:

As several people already mentioned are is the grammatically correct word to use.

The reason that in colloquial speech is is often used in such a phrase has mainly to do with the fact that the speaker is dealing with 2 concepts (one plural and once singular) at the same time.

Example: "There's 2 answers to the question"
"Answers" is obviously plural, but there is one question. The speaker ties the verb to "question" and is inclined to use is.
This even happens if "to the question" isn't really spoken. The speaker is still thinking about it.

Another example: Where's the cattle?
The speaker probably has a place (singular) in mind, which (unconsciously) affects his/her use of the verb.

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  • 1
    "but their is one question", shouldn't that be "there"?
    – Zack
    Nov 11, 2014 at 17:47
  • @Zack Nice catch. Corrected.
    – Tonny
    Nov 11, 2014 at 21:15
  • I'm not sure how much it has to do with a mixture of singular and plural. Saying "there's" is just easier than saying "there're" or "there are". When I say "there's <plural>", I'm usually aware that it's "wrong", but I don't care, because it is smoother to say.
    – Chris
    Nov 11, 2014 at 22:12
-1

Yes, "There's two ..." is incorrect. The subject and verb should agree in number.

And yes, in informal speech you will hear people say this. But that doesn't make it correct. People say lots of grammatically incorrect things in informal speech, because when you're talking, you don't necessarily have the sentence planned out when you start, or you're just not paying careful attention to your word choice.

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  • Exactly, see also my answer.
    – Tonny
    Nov 11, 2014 at 15:40
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    Who says it's incorrect? Nov 11, 2014 at 17:01
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    @Araucaria I think you mean, "Who says it are incorrect?" :-) The idea that nouns and verbs should agree in number is a pretty widely-accepted grammar rule.
    – Jay
    Dec 11, 2015 at 15:58
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    @Jay The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, that's who says it's correct! Dec 11, 2015 at 16:07
  • 1
    @Araucaria Can you quote the reference?
    – Jay
    Dec 11, 2015 at 16:10

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